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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Together, one step ahead of wildfires: how Greece stepped up to help Portugal tackle the blaze

When wildfires in Portugal were at risk of burning out of control, authorities asked for help from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Thanks to monitoring and advance warning from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), firefighting planes from Greece were pre-positioned in Portugal and flew into action immediately.

Using data for a rapid response

We can identify the areas in which, if there is a fire, the fire will grow and become very difficult to extinguish,” says Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz. “That allows firefighting teams to be better prepared.

Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz

Taking to the skies to help fellow Europeans

When a forest fire breaks out, the aerial firefighting must start as soon as possible. The actions needed must be well planned, decisive, and fast. We have 20 minutes to head for the planes, start the engines and take off.

Stefanos Karpetis

“The Portuguese colleagues were excellent,” Karpetis says. “I really appreciated each one of them, and I want to thank them for the help they provided to our team. When the fire is finally extinguished and you realise that you have contributed towards this result, this is really rewarding.”

Preparing for the future

Light aircraft

new light aircrafts in 2023


new helicopters in 2023

Firefighting capacities

firefighting capacity in 2023

After a record-breaking fire season in 2022, the EU is proposing to increase the budget for rescEU – the EU-financed firefighting fleet – by €170 million and to double its capacity before the 2023 wildfire season.  

The upgraded fleet will have up to 12 additional light aircraft, 3 new helicopters, and more pre-positioned ground teams.  

The latest satellite mapping and analysis will guide those teams. Throughout his career, San-Miguel-Ayanz has seen huge improvements in the resolution and speed of the satellite mapping he uses. Improvements like this will help countries to prepare and respond to fires in the future.  

“I will continue improving the information we have and the accuracy of our fire behaviour models. We must determine where the fires will impact next,” says San-Miguel-Ayanz. 

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